BIRDMAN OR (THE UNEXPECTED VIRTUE OF IGNORANCE) (Alejandro Gonzalez Iñarritu, 2014)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Birdman Or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance):

1. I had always associated Alejandro Gonzalez Iñarritu with the intersecting stories narrative where major characters in his films had their lives connected and intertwined (FYI, I really loved Amores Perros, Babel, and 21 Grams). It was one big gimmick that worked for me. I wasn’t surprised that his newest film relied on another gimmick (“one long continuous take”) to drive the story.

2. Off the bat, people would either love this or find it completely boring. There were so many insider jokes on cinema and theater and the arts that might just go over their heads. As one character stated, “Audiences love action, not this talking philosophical bullshit.”

3. Michael Keaton looked like Robert Duvall whenever he wasn’t wearing a wig. He was excellent here by the way. The mere fact that he agreed to make fun of his current status (washed up actor who used to be Batman!) was just brave. If Al Pacino could win for all the scenery-chewing in Scent of a Woman, why couldn’t Keaton? I wouldn’t be complaining if he got that Best Actor Oscar.

4. “You confuse love for admiration.” Raise your hand if you were guilty of this.

5. Edward Norton had a lot of nudity here (or scenes that showed him in his underwear or sported a boner). For a more lengthy peek on his gift, you could watch the brilliant American History X. I loved the Norton the Method Actor playing a Norton-ish Method Actor joke.

6. I was initially bothered by the drumming soundtrack. I was expecting Miles Teller to show up practicing in one corner. And then the movie revealed an actual drummer and later on a band in Times Square. I guess the joke was on me.

7. Naomi Watts’ character had this great repartee with Andrea Riseborough’s:

“Why don’t I have any self-respect?”

“You’re an actress, honey!”

8. Speaking of Watts, she was really good in this movie. I was surprised her performance was virtually overlooked against co-star Emma Stone. Everyone knew how much I loved Stone (I even named my car after her) but she was just fine here.

9. Speaking of, there was a blatant Lancome product placement that was here either as a real product placement or as a joke on product placements in movies (or both). With this kind of dark comedy, it was just hard to tell.

10. Similar to Annie, they showed a viral video that was taken from different angles. Probably the only sloppy thing in this film.

11. Did the film miss an Oscar nomination for Best Editing since it really looked like one continuous take? Shouldn’t it have gotten one for making it look like it was one brilliant, seamless take?

12. When Keaton’s character complained about getting overshadowed by Clooney, it was just a wink on the battle of the Batmans. I’d be happy to see a fourth Batman win an Oscar tbh.

13. I hope Wenn Deramas could watch this just for that wonderful takedown on film criticism. I bet he’d have a major meltdown.

14. “A thing is a thing, not what is said of the thing.” This was a sad, sad film. Watch at your own risk.

Rating: ★★★★☆

(Originally published February 1, 2015.)

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THE DEBUTANTES (Prime Cruz, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on The Debutantes:

1. I still haven’t forgotten about the clunky twist of last week’s Last Night and now we get another movie that hinged on the big reveal of an ‘imaginary’ being. Are our writers running out of original ideas to surprise the audience?

It probably would have been more acceptable if the said twist wasn’t so obvious the moment you see young Jona Soquite (or at least who I thought was her). Seriously, why would ‘siblings’ with a huge age gap have that twinning kind of severe BANGS (yes, nagsusumigaw) anyway? The only mystery left was whether she was the evil side of Carrie, er, Kate (a competent Sue Ramirez), or a completely different entity altogether (answer: sadly, the latter).

2. I had this discussion recently with a filmmaker friend on the lack of creative main titles in recent films (especially Star Cinema ones). We would usually see the same old cast names in red (or white) Times New Roman or Comic Sans fonts that clearly revealed the lack of originality or how much the final product was rushed.

One good thing about this movie was that it had a good opening credit sequence with blood flowing/dripping endlessly on various objects like a flower (cattleya?) or on the lips that would figure prominently later on. Reminded me so much of the Emmy-winning design for Six Feet Under.

3. Although the bullying and the public humiliation reminded me of Carrie, the similarity ended there because it was hard not to sympathize with the Mean Girls when this was obviously not an outright revenge flick. How could I cheer for the eventual deaths of young, irritating girls when Kate wasn’t the one doing the killings?

I never really rooted for a maligno, except for this one time when the Undin hid in the toilet bowl and preyed on the loudmouth landlady played by Vangie Labalan.

4. Speaking of Mean Girls, I couldn’t get why Ivy Aguas wannabe Jenny (Jane de Leon) was considered the Queen Bee. She didn’t look or speak the part and Michelle Vito as Candice had more of the Regina George vibe (although the latter was also a terrible actress so maybe that was the reason?).

To be fair, the Jenny character was a hoot. I laughed out loud when she said, “Hey guys, as you all know it’s my birthday. Yeeeees! Happy birthday to meeeee!!”.

5. I also couldn’t understand how Miles Ocampo ended up with this group of bitches considering that her Lara character seemed like the typical goody two-shoes. Sure, she lived alone in a humongous house and had an annoying fringed bag that screamed social climber, but her personality just didn’t seem to fit with the group. Was it because she was too dumb to know the difference between Geometry and Calculus and the group needed a budget Karen Smith?

6. Why would Kate agree to wear a revealing halter top when she had visible scratch marks on her back? Also, why didn’t she even bother to check how loose those strings were prior to attending a party full of privileged brats?

In this day and age of social media prominence, who would still post a public status of them embarrassing other people? Have these kids already forgotten about Ate Amalayer, or the Kuya that threw a hissy fit in Alfamart and got knocked down by a loaf of Gardenia, or the Sisteret that wanted to hog all the chairs in Starbucks? A documented case of bullying sounded like an instant lawsuit to me.

7. This was a Prime Cruz movie so of course it looked good. I really loved the use of saturated colors and I hope that it wasn’t just a product of SM Cinemas’ poor projection. I kinda missed his cool soundtrack though and the songs were mostly utilized during the end credits.

8. I really don’t get how these onscreen characters would cut their own hair and they’d always end up with salon gorgeous looks after. If I were to handle my own haircut, my mother would most probably ask if I recently had ‘tipus’ (uhm, thyphoid fever).

9. Why would a traumatized Kate immediately attend the wake of one of her bullies? Was it because we needed a scare scene involving a coffin? And why was Candice wearing a stylish cover-up and pekpek shorts there? Jenny should really have risen from the dead and slapped her silly for stealing the limelight (and for lack of respect, naturally).

10. Most of the horror elements were familiar tropes (they basically replaced the hair braid coming out of Naomi Watts’ throat in The Ring with a necklace; the jump scene when somebody would open a fridge and a person would be standing behind it was used twice, the other with a locker; the setup where the ghost would pull on the blanket of a sleeping person looked straight out of The Conjuring) and even impressive scenes like when the engkanto came out of Kate’s mouth looked similar to the one in The Possession (or one of the Ouija movies). I spent most of the time chuckling at how bad the death scenes were staged.

11. That was one dirty toilet bowl. Candice, please ask your maid to check the Coke hack on Facebook pronto.

12. This was the type of horror movie where a person in a pool would see the moo moo and decide to swim to the other side instead of getting her ass out of the water and fleeing for dear life. Congratulations Shayne (Chanel Morales) for winning this month’s Darwin Award!!

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

RINGS (F. Javier Gutierrez, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Rings:

1. Huge advancements in technology had not been kind at all to this tired, old franchise. Fifteen years ago, a long-haired girl in a white kamison crawling out of a television screen might have been considered scary. But very much like VHS tapes, this type of horror now felt very much outdated (and definitely not vintage).

Besides, in this day and age where one could update his Facebook status on a watch, who else would be using a VCR (or even had one that was still working)?

Even more absurd, not a single click-hungry site (not BuzzFeed, not TMZ, not even Snopes!) picked up the urban legend of a killer video. I actually expected it to be the most viewed clip in YouTube and Samara’s/Sadako’s biggest problem would be how to properly schedule the deaths of millions of people that watched. Surely, she would rather jump back in the well out of sheer exhaustion.

2. If you hadn’t seen The Ring or Ring Two (or their far superior Japanese source Ringu), let me do a quick recap. Adopted child drowned in well for having witch powers wanted to seek revenge on mankind through a cursed video that killed its viewers after seven days and the only way to escape death was to create a copy that somebody else needed to watch.

Yup, it worked exactly like a chain letter or an ambush multi-level marketing scheme in Starbucks. Scary, huh?

3. This entire lore was completely thrown out the window when Samara basically chose whoever she wanted to kill and towards the end of the movie even turned into a virus and started sending her own video to everyone on a character’s contact list. I was guessing part of her rebirth consisted of becoming the ultimate social media famewhore. (Also, sorry bitch, but the terrible Feng Shui 2 beat you to it.)

4. I definitely missed Naomi Watts who brought a certain depth in an otherwise standard fright flick. In this one, she was replaced by some college kids that didn’t know how to act scared or even let out a proper scream. Nobody could authentically pull out an incredibly long and chokeable foreign matter out of one’s throat (you pervert!) like Naomi and she did it first and much better in The Ring.

5. In one scene, a girl entered a projector room and disturbed everyone else that was seated when she crossed their path to get to the other side. It reminded me so much of my terrible viewing experiences in Greenbelt 3 Cinemas 1 and 2 where people would treat the last row of seats as if it was an aisle for them to get to the bathroom (and of course, they would return to their seats the same way and bother you a second time around). Hmm, I should probably start listing down my cinema pet peeves.

6. Hala biglang naging Don’t Breathe! What the fork!

7. If you were the type that get easily scared by umbrellas that loudly open, you would enjoy this one. As for me, na-sad ako. (Whee! I’m so punny!)

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

THE DIVERGENT SERIES: ALLEGIANT (Robert Schwentke, 2016)

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My notes on The Divergent Series: Allegiant:

1. I have no patience for any movie where lovers still have time to kiss, make-out, and whisper sweet nothings to each other all while in the face of danger. If an enemy base is under attack, everyone’s on red alert, and you are both trying to escape, there is just no time for landian. Get your asses out of there and use your Victoria Court privilege card (with complimentary chicken after the first 12 hours) as soon as you’re free. Being based on a Young Adult novel is still no excuse.

2. It’s not really a requirement to see Divergent and Insurgent before seeing this one, but it would sure help. At least you won’t be like the noisy girls in front of me that would gasp at non-revelations (when Theo James’ Four called Naomi Watts’ Evelyn “mother”) and ponder on basic plot points previously discussed (“Ano yung mga factions? Paano kung gusto niya lumipat?”). They should be thankful I was Team Amity that day and I had no patience to drag them out of the theater and conduct a Theater Etiquette lecture.

3. I still couldn’t get over the fact that Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort played siblings Tris and Caleb in this series. Whenever they stared at each other, I would always remember the scene where Hazel Grace mounted Augustus and they made PG-13 love with nose tubes and all. This movie was so bad that I would have preferred to see them instead in a lame The Fault in Our Stars sequel where their dead characters meet in heaven and read An Imperial Affliction on a park bench.

4. The wall-climbing scene reminded me so much of that tense-filled moment in Jurassic Park where Sam Neill and the two kids only had a few seconds to go over a high electric fence. Only here it wasn’t that exciting and I just said meh. And when a character was killed after, I was like meh. (Yes, this movie temporarily turned me into a goat.)

5. If Tris ever joined The Hunger Games (or if you’re a hipster, Battle Royale), she would be the first to get slaughtered. I laughed really hard whenever Shailene had to run because she looked really funny and wobbly and slow. Did she forget to take her vitamins that day?

6. I kinda liked the Mad Max-inspired bleeding rain dystopian scenes. I have always feared acid rain ever since I read about it in our first and only volume of Collier’s Encyclopedia (long story short, my mother just couldn’t say no to the nice salesman so she agreed to buy one volume because that was all she was willing to spend or maybe what she could afford that time and we ended up owning only Vol. 1 “A-B”).

7. I am tired of this double standard requirement of having women in nude shower scenes. Why couldn’t it have been Theo or Ansel (or heck, even Miles Teller’s Peter)? Right?

8. Wouldn’t it be great to have bar codes on our arms and it would serve as our personal information database instead? At least we won’t need to bring a license and passport whenever we’re asked to present two valid IDs. It would also save us the time of endlessly lining up in the SSS/NBI/GSIS/PRC offices.

9. Tris had to wear white all the time to show everyone that she was pure. Which was funny because after all of her make-out sessions, she couldn’t even wear white to her wedding.

10. For a supposedly high-tech facility run by the top tier, the Bureau had terrible security and the most inept personnel. The central elevator was compromised and yet Four was still able to reach the hundredth floor penthouse. Soldiers kept dropping like flies while none of the Divergent gang were even injured. In one scene, Jeff Daniels’ David used a simulator to harass Tris and proclaim that he had full control on all doors and room access, and yet all Tris had to do was shoot a wall to destroy the target. How lame could this movie get?

11. Could someone explain how those green protection fields worked? How could the Divergents’ bullets go through when they were the ones firing the guns and yet it shields them from gunfire of enemies? Was it a one-way shield? This had been bugging me since yesterday. Help!

12. “There can be no change without sacrifice, no peace without struggle. The world doesn’t work like that.” Tell us something we don’t know.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆